Development Communications in Fragile States

By 21/04/2016

DFID has scaled up its efforts in fragile states. The budget allocation memo which accompanied the new UK Aid Strategy, published on the 23rd of November 2015, stated that DFID will aim to spend 50% of its budget on states which fall within its fragility index (which can be viewed in the memo’s annex). This is an increase on the previous year’s allocation of 30% of Official Development Assistance (ODA). DFID defines fragile states as: ‘those where the government cannot or will not deliver core functions to the majority of its people, including the poor’ (DFID, 2005).

This raises the question, how should strategic communications be nuanced and contextualised within development programmes operating in fragile states? Here at R2A we have collated a reading list of resources that offer guidance and a selection of evidence about improving development communications in fragile states.


  1. The GDSRC’s topic guide to ‘Communication in Fragile states‘ written by Haider et al. offers a review of the current  literature and highlights a number of case studies around development communications in fragile states. Key themes include: communications for states building, the role of the media in fragile states and media development.
  2. Skuse et al. conducted a systematic review of ‘Communication for Development Interventions in Fragile States‘ which sheds light on the importance of appreciating the context of different communications interventions. The systematic review also found a need for ‘early, more thorough and longer-term C4D interventions within fragile states’ (Skuse et al. 2013: 3).
  3. BBC Media Action’s briefing on ‘Fragile States: the role of media and communication‘ summarises programmatic learning from Kenya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, focusing on the role of social and traditional media upon state fragility.
  4. The World Bank’s Communication for Governance and Accountability Program (CommGap) policy briefing paper entitled ‘Towards a New Policy Model for Media and Communication in Post-conflict and Fragile States‘ identifies the need for a new policy approach in order to address the complex but potentially invaluable role the media and communications can play in fostering citizen engagement within fragile states.
  5. The Communication Initiative’s The Fragile Contexts- State Building Network houses a number of useful resources, videos and case studies around communications in fragile states.
  6. The 2015 ICAI evaluation of ‘The Scale-up of DFID’s Support to Fragile States‘ suggests that the risk of difficult communications in fragile states can be mitigated by: using locally experienced research teams, ensuring that programmes have adequate language capabilities for the given area and collating evidence from wider stakeholders to better understand the local landscape. The evaluative report also explores internal programmatic communications constraints and suggests solutions.
  7. INTRAC’s briefing paper ‘Working with Civil Society in Fragile States‘ written by Dowst draws together useful tools for assessing context. It emphasises a longer term strategic focus coupled with a shorter term programmatic solution and also, stresses the effective tactic of utilising umbrella organisations and networks.
  8. The DFID funded CRISE centre at the University of Oxford carried out a wide range of research around inequality, human security and ethnicity over its funding lifespan; the project’s Communications Strategy offers a good template for research programmes relating to or investigating state fragility who are looking to more strategically approach their project communications.

This resource list is intended to be dynamic and will be updated regularly. We welcome your input and any suggested resources in the comment section below or, alternatively, you can tweet them to us via @Research2Action.